Thursday, 17 April, 2014.
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Social Networking Fads

by Alex Ronk


Social networking sites are here to stay.
Just when it seems that there is nothing left to be explored, teenagers everywhere embark on their quest to conquer the internet. They use it as an outlet to express themselves, an attempt to promote themselves to “get discovered”, or simply just to learn about their peers through the supposed art of creeping. Many popular sites could just be trends-we’ve all lived through the Myspace Craze. But now, our generation seems to be excessively dependent on these sites.

Facebook began in 2004, and was meant to provide a place for college students to branch out and meet new people. As the site grew, it limited its age restrictions, so that now, anyone 13 or older can make a profile. Personally, I created my profile in 2006, when it was first made available to high school students. Friends in college were enraged-they considered Facebook a privilege, reserved for students of higher education. We soon learned, however, that the site allowed us to keep in touch, and it quickly became addicting. Teenagers were able to keep tabs on their friends, as well as enemies, and unlimited amounts of personal information became available with the click of a button.

The addition of applications only worsened the cause. Everything from games of Tetris, to picture-editing software like Picnik, to the latest fads, including Farmville and Café World (which I refuse to give in to), possess surprisingly strong addictive qualities. College students have even been known to revolve entire schedules around when crops need to be harvested, and food needs to be served. Of course, hours spent on Facebook, stalking from page to page or playing addicting games is time that otherwise would have been spent studying, sleeping, and even socializing with actual people, yet the site has managed to achieve the status of being a staple of the “college experience.”

At first glance, Twitter may seem pointless. Why would anyone want to update the world about what they’re doing, in 140 characters or less? And, why should we care what anyone else is doing, for that matter? I created a Twitter account this past spring, and thought the same thing. Within a week, however, I began to see the addicting qualities of the site. It became a great way to vent about everyday stress, as well as express hopes and fears. Once I figured out how to send tweets from my phone, it only got worse-I could update the world from wherever I wanted, and even send in pictures. One of the most addicting qualities, however, is the feeling users get when they learn they have new followers. It creates a feeling that people actually care about their 140-character-incremented thought processes. This only causes them to tweet more, in hopes that they’ll gather an even larger following.

And then there’s the wonderful world of bloggers and vloggers. Blogspot, Livejournal and Wordpress are among the websites that provide outlets for budding writers. The powerful aspect of blogging is that it can serve whatever purpose the writer wants it to- in order to review movies, provide comedy through “overheard” stories, or even just to use in lieu of a diary, to record daily events. Depending on how much each blogger has to say, this may not be one of the more addicting aspects of the internet, as it does not necessarily require immediate attention or intense commitment. However, once people start reading others’ blogs, their attention can be captivated for hours as they click from page to page. I know I’m guilty of this; when I learned that one of my favorite authors has her own blog, I read as many entries as I could at a time before realizing I had to stop myself to get some schoolwork done.

YouTube For those who feel writing isn’t exactly their thing, they might prefer making videos, or vlogs, as their social networking outlet of choice. As musical comedian Bo Burnham proclaims in his song, “Welcome to YouTube”, “YouTube is a place for people to share their ideas”, whether to share political opinions, show off musical talents, or just simply express their love for the Jonas Brothers. There are plenty of great things happening on this site, including scholarship contests and charity projects, as well as the ability to boost self esteem with every new subscriber and positive comment. Unfortunately, however, even though YouTube’s purpose is to be a community where individuals and groups can express themselves, there are still plenty of people out there, known as “trolls”, who thrive on spreading negative, degrading and judgmental comments on videos.

See, people who make videos have a lot of guts to put themselves out there for the world to see, making themselves vulnerable to the public does not just make it necessary for others to put them down. Sure, everyone has the right to their opinion, but for the most part, these trolls are not being forced to watch videos, and their demeaning comments are often unjustified, insulting YouTubers for insignificant details such as their physical appearances, greatly hampering their confidence, instead of offering constructive criticism that could help these YouTubers improve videos that they put hours into creating.

Some people might not consider themselves writers, but don’t really have enough interesting things to express in a video; the site DailyBooth.com unleashes the narcissism within these people as their updates consist of pictures of themselves with captions, opening up an entirely new genre called “photo-blogging”. Users are able to comment with pictures and gain followings just like the other sites. Some say it possesses addictive qualities, but personally I’m way too self-conscious- I’d end up wasting time taking picture after picture until I find one good enough to submit, only to realize that it probably looks identical to all the others I’ve submitted already.

What is it about these sites that makes them so addicting? It could be that our generation is just that desperate to reach out for friendship and people we can relate with, or it could simply be that we find them to be the perfect source for hours upon hours of procrastination. Whatever the cause may be, it seems highly unlikely that social networking sites as a whole are going to fade away any time soon.

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